Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi faced a challenging kick-off to the weekend.
The first free practice sessions got underway today for this weekend’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón at the Motorland Aragón circuit in Spain. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi faced a challenging kick-off to the weekend with a number of set up challenges to resolve. With track conditions very different to when the team tested at Aragón earlier in the year, there was no advantage to be had from the taken data.
Local hero Lorenzo was able to rise to third in the morning session, just over 0.5 seconds from the top but dropped to seventh in the afternoon practice, increasing the distance to first to 0.684 seconds. The results leave him in seventh in the combined times ahead of tomorrow’s sessions.
Teammate Rossi was facing the same issues as he pushed to tame his YZR-M1 on the sweeping circuit. The Misano race winner finished the morning in sixth position, 0.947 from first and dropped to just over the second from the top in the afternoon to finish in tenth in the overall times.
Jorge Lorenzo (7th / 1'48.969 / 17 Laps): “We are using a completely different tyre to the rest of the riders. Valentino didn't like so much the hard front, I don't know if he tried the soft in the last laps but for me it was better with the softer option. Tomorrow we will do some more laps to see if it will be constant for the duration of the race. We didn't start in the best way possible, we are very far from the front, but the thing that worries us is that we are far from my ideal time here from last year so we have margin to improve. I feel great physically and mentally but the bike needs to improve a bit. We are going to test a different set up for tomorrow so I’m looking forward to continuing.”
Valentino Rossi (10th / 1'49.312 / 18 Laps): “Together with Yamaha and Bridgestone we decided to try the hard rear to understand if it’s good option but it proved difficult. At the same time I struggled with the front as I was suffering some under steer so we decided to try the soft front; that was not so bad. We made some important data for tomorrow because we tried all the combinations. We need to work a lot as we suffer with rear grip and corner speed. The bike is difficult to ride and I’m not fast enough so tomorrow we have to improve a lot.”
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director: “It’s been a difficult first day, unfortunately we couldn't get the bike to work as we wanted to. We have a number of challenges to resolve in set up to progress as the condition of the track now is completely different to when we tested here. We tested various tyre combinations so we are closer to understanding the choices and we'll know more after the next sessions. We will work hard tonight to find solutions and we fully expect to make significant steps forward tomorrow.”
Bright start in sunny Spain for Espargaro
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro signalled his intent for the weekend by completing the opening day of practice forcefully in 6th place in front of his home crowd at the MotorLand Aragon circuit. The reigning Moto2 World Champion began the day by finishing in 8th position with a best time of 1’50.120 which saw him miss the second row by only 0.178 of a second after running strongly throughout the practice.
The 23 year old rider continued his forward momentum into the afternoon as track temperatures increased and powered to a best lap of 1’48.966. This time was just behind the 3rd placed rider by only two tenths of a second and was set on his third lap as he also posted the quickest Yamaha speed of 334.4 kmh. The superb start leaves the young rookie poised for success at Aragon and tomorrow he will aim to qualify inside the top six in front of his passionate fans and then blaze to a competitive result in the 23 lap dash on Sunday.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage, Bradley Smith worked on establishing a comfortable setup of his Yamaha YZR-M1 before confidently finishing in 9th place in dry, sunny conditions at Aragon. The British rider completed the morning session in 10th after posting a time of 1’50.246, only three tenths of a second from the top six.
As the afternoon practice began, the young rider battled onwards in the fiercely competitive premier class to complete the session inside the top ten with a best lap of 1’49.011. In addition, the distance to the 5th placed rider was impressively minimal with a gap of only 0.073 seconds. The work undertaken today together with his performance, leave the 23 year old charged with grit as he optimistically looks towards the qualifying shootout tomorrow at Aragon.
Pol Espargaro (6th / 1'48.966 / 37 Laps): "Today was a really positive way to kick of the weekend for me. My feeling with the bike was good from the word go, which could partly be due to the fact that I’ve ridden a lot of races here, but for whatever reason all the movements felt truly natural. I was able to run competitive lap times which kept me on the virtual podium for the majority of the session this afternoon, but still I think Valentino and Jorge's rhythm might be a bit stronger and for sure they will get up to speed tomorrow. Also we still have some margin to improve and I'm looking forward to trying the softer tyre compound in FP3 or 4 as we just ran the harder compound today. I know the situation in qualifying will not be an easy one due to the tyre difference with the Ducati's and the open class bikes but I'm really looking forward to the race on Sunday and I hope that all of our hard work will pay off."
Bradley Smith (9th / 1'49.011 / 37 Laps): "I am pleased with the job we did today and especially in this afternoon’s session, we made a big step forward with the bike and have a definite direction to follow for the rest of the weekend. We focused a lot on braking stability as well as my technique in order to be smoother and more consistent. I can safely say that we improved this and I certainly feel that we did a good job today. At the moment, the lap times are close in the classifications but the Honda’s seem to have a small advantage so we need to work hard to catch them up. Also today, the soft tyre compound might have given the open class bikes and the Ducati’s some advantage however, I am confident that the grip level of the track will keep improving which will allow us to close in on them tomorrow. Nevertheless it was a positive day and I look forward to continuing the good work for the rest of the weekend."
Espargaro, fifth fastest time at Aragon
It was a very positive day for the NGM Forward Racing Team with Aleix Espargaro and Alex De Angelis respectively 5th and 15th.
The Spaniard set the second fastest time (1’49.185) during the FP1 characterized by cold temperatures (15° the air and 17° the ground). Aleix further improved his lap times in afternoon when the warmer temperatures changed the track conditions (23° the air and 36° the ground). With 1’48.938, just 0.653 from the provisional pole, Aleix Espargaro set the fifth fastest time and he will keep on working tomorrow to improve the set up in preparation of the race.
18th in the morning session, team mate Alex De Angelis improved his lap time in the afternoon signing a promising 1’50.408 (15th). Alex, who has not completely recovered from the scaphoid fracture, preferred to ride a bit conservative today.
Aleix Espargaro (5th / 1'48.938 / 36 Laps): “I like Aragon a lot and it’s a kind of home GP for me. This morning was quiet cold but I had a good feeling especially in the second half of the session. In the afternoon, with warmer temperatures, we struggled a bit as we lacked of grip on the front. Anyway I’m confident that we can improve and tomorrow we will continue to work on the bike set up with the hard tyres in preparation of the race”.
Alex De Angelis (15th / 1'50.408 / 28 Laps): “All in all it was a positive day as I could improve my lap times in the afternoon session compared to the FP1. I had to be a bit more careful as I have more pain in the second part of the session, but in general I’m optimist. Tomorrow we will continue to work on the traction control and on the bike set up to make the bike turn better”.